Is It Safe for My Parent to Live Alone?

Whether your aging parents are safe living alone or not depends on several factors: their overall mental and physical health, how socially active they are, and how far they are from family or other help. This is a highly personal question that everyone needs to ask and answer for themselves.

We got advice from our expert advisor, Sally Russell. As an MN, CMSRN, and CNE, she shed light on how to help aging parents live independently longer.

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Signs your parents shouldn’t live alone

There are some signs that it may be time for your parents to move—whether that’s moving in with you or into a retirement community, assisted living facility, or nursing home.

1. They have chronic health conditions

If your parents have health conditions that require a lot of specialized care, they may be better off in a nursing home with constant nursing help available.

2. They are isolated or feel lonely

Isolation and loneliness are major problems that can decrease the quality of life for seniors living alone. If they are otherwise in good health, there are communities designed specifically for senior independent living (sometimes called retirement communities) that might be perfect for them.

3. They have trouble maintaining basic hygiene and living habits

As humans age, their ability to perform simple daily habits can decrease. They may struggle to get in and out of the shower or make meals. If that describes your parents, they are much more likely to thrive in an environment where they can receive that help regularly.

"If it’s not safe to leave them alone, and you worry about falls or cooking injuries, it may be safer for them in a facility where other people are there to protect them as well," says Russell.

Making the decision

If your parents are experiencing any of these difficulties, it might be time to consider finding an assisted living facility or retirement community. The right community will reduce isolation and provide the medical help they may need.

On the other hand, if your parents are in good health, socially active, and can take care of themselves, then senior independent living is another option.

Many senior and retirement facilities have a social worker who visits regularly or works full time. They can help you start the process. While it's not an easy decision, you'll get peace of mind knowing you made the safest decision even if it is not the easiest one.

You can check with the National Council on Aging to find resources in your area.

Help for seniors living alone

If your parents are still living alone, try these things to keep things running smoothly for them:

  1. Set up pharmacist or nurse consultations to help keep medications organized and on schedule.
  2. Set up a home security system to help ensure they stay safe on their own.
  3. Get them a pet to keep them company.
  4. Check on them regularly. It's not just nice to catch up with your mom or dad, regular calls or visits prevent isolation and give you a better picture of how they're doing on their own.
  5. Get smart home devices to make their daily routine easier. Smart thermostats, video doorbells, and smart locks can give them more control over their home without the need to get up. 

Even if your parent is elderly, living alone may still be important to them—it’s a sign of self-sufficiency that’s hard to let go. In that case, have a discussion about medical alert devices. They could be the key to your parents maintaining independence while staying safe.

Compare the best medical alert systems

Lowest monthly price
In-home range
Backup battery
Landline option available
Multiple wearable options
Learn more
Read review
Best overall
Bay Alarm Medical
1000 ft.32 hours
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best value
GetSafe medical alert systemGetSafe
1300 ft.32 hours
Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Best for fall detection
Philips HomeSafe StandardPhilips LifeLine
400 ft.Not available
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best for customization
Medical Guardian Classic Guardian systemMedical Guardian
1300 ft.32 hours
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best for active lifestyles
1400 ft.24 hours
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes

Data effective 05/13/2021. Offers and availability subject to change.

Celeste Tholen
Written by
Celeste Tholen
Celeste has dedicated her decade-long career to reporting and reviews that help people make well-informed decisions. She oversees editorial strategy and production for SafeWise, with a goal to help people find the information they need to make their homes and lives safer. Prior to SafeWise, she worked as an editor and reporter for KSL and Deseret News. She continues to report on local news as a volunteer with the community paper. For the last six years, she’s led a Girl Scout troop, teaching girls about safety and preparing for whatever life throws their way.

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